The U.S. Department of Energy Solid State Lighting (SSL) Program plays a leading role in the research, development, and promotion of SSL. Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are the principal SSL technology. You may remember from a previous post, the reference to the L-prize, which was a ten million dollar prize awarded to the manufacturer that could achieve ambitious performance criteria and thus produce a light bulb ‘for the 21st century’, generating significant potential for LED energy savings. The prize spurred competition and helped drive the market forward. The DOE SSL program, which is part of the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, is spearheading important research on topics such as street lighting and blue lighting, tunable lighting (light that can change color temperature), changing quality evaluation metrics, LED adoption rates, energy savings potential, and more.
Why would this federal office be so gung-ho about LEDs? Well, they see what we stand to gain. First off, the installation of A-shape bulbs jumped 160% between 2014 and 2015. They project that an increase in LEDs usage could save Americans nearly $630 billion in energy costs between now and 2035. Their research estimates that we have tapped just 5% of the energy savings potential and that LED technology offers the most energy-saving potential of any existing technology! Of course a federal office such as this, in our current political climate, must justify and promote its cause, or face the chopping block. So, the DOE SSL program has just released a report and infographic that communicates the top 5 ways that the United States will benefit by staying invested in LED lighting research.
The Top Five Benefits Of Investments In LED Research & Development
1. 5.1 quads of energy saved each year by 2035
This figure is almost twice the electricity projected to be produced from solar power by 2035. First of all…Wait, what? Wow! Twice the energy of solar power? For all the hoopla that solar power gets, who would’ve known that something as simple and cost effective as upgrading lighting to LEDs could have such an impact. The LED energy savings potential is incredible and hopefully, this data can help create some buzz and excitement.
Second, what the heck is a quad of energy? A quad is a unit of energy that the DOE uses when talking about global energy supply, needs, etc. A quad is basically a quadrillion BTUs, which in lighting talk equals 293 billion kilowatt hours (kWh). To put that in perspective, if you replace a 60-watt incandescent bulb with an 8 watt LED bulb and run it 24/7 for a year, you would produce 455.52 kWh savings. So, 5.1 quads annual energy savings is the equivalent of changing over 3.28 billion light bulbs to LED. So, a whole heck of a lot of energy savings and energy savings equals reduced demand (called negawatts) equals fewer power plants, lower energy bills, and reduced carbon emissions.
2. Scientific progress on key technology frontiers
The clean technology revolution is upon us and unstoppable; the United States can be a laggard or choose to be a leader. The scientific advancements in further developing LEDs will have applications in materials science, semiconductor physics, quantum dots, and optics.
3. Better quality in efficient lighting products
Through continued research and development, the quality and functionality of available products will continue to evolve, maximising the potential of LED energy savings. We will continue to get more light with less electric power and less waste heat. Advancements can also produce better optical control, less glare, color stability, and longer product lives.
4 .Affordable products with competitive first costs
Energy savings over the life of the product can be quite attractive. How much that product costs to buy and install is the biggest limiting factor in adoption rates. As development continues, upfront cost continues to decrease, which spurs more adoption. Rebate programs, like those available through the myLEDrebates.com project platform, lower that primary hurdle by effectively dropping the upfront cost of end users.
5. U.S. jobs with domestic manufacturers.
The global leader in the LED market will be best positioned to develop manufacturing and build jobs. Manufacturers are increasingly looking to produce domestically, benefiting the US economy.
These five benefits combine to create a compelling argument to continue and expand the R&D of the LED market and technology. The US DOE is currently in its twelfth round of investments in solid-state lighting R&D, this time funding $8 million across 7 recipients that range from advancing efficacy and longevity, to the study of material components and health impacts. The 250 plus projects funded by the DOE have resulted in more than 260 patents applied for or awarded. This has contributed to huge advancements in the LED industry footprint. The risk is that without public investments in R&D, the market will focus on selling LEDs as they currently exist, instead of continuing to develop things like efficacy and longevity. America and the world stands to reap great benefits in developing the potential of LEDs. Thank you to the DOE for the torch bearing role in cultivating a technology that stands to pay off handsomely.